Marimba Extends Handheld Management

Marimba extends its inventory, packaging, distribution and reporting functions to Palm Pilots and Pocket PCs.

Marimba Inc. next month will further extend ITs ability to reach out and manage handheld devices when it launches a new Device Management option.

Although Marimba and the rest of the change management industry have taken hesitant steps to extend management to Palm Pilots and Pocket PCs, Marimba is more fully embracing management of such devices by extending its inventory, packaging, distribution and reporting functions to those devices.

The option, an add-on to its Desktop/Mobile Management offering, will allow an operator to auto-discover Pocket PCs and Palm Pilots through a companion PC. That capability allows IT managers to determine what devices are being used in the enterprise and by which users.

"You can do an inventory scan whenever you cradle your device. You can take a snapshot on a scheduled basis to see whats on a device and whats being installed," said Jeanne Morain, senior product manager at Marimba, in Mountain View, Calif.

Although managing such devices has not been a mandate for most enterprises, some pockets in such industries as health care, financial services, insurance and retail are beginning to roll out business applications that exploit handheld devices, Morain said.

"Weve seen in the last year and a half greater purchasing of Pocket PCs, with applications driving device acceptance," said Morain.

The wide variety of handheld devices—with no clear leader established—has held back management software providers from offering greater management capabilities, believes Tim Wilson, senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates Inc., in Oakton, Va. "There really hasnt been much universal acceptance of any one or set of devices. Pocket PC is getting some traction, but there isnt a standard set of devices the way there is for the desktop. It remains a big management challenge because each device has different memory, software and capabilities for downloading large (and sensitive) files. Because of that, the management task becomes more important, but there arent any standards for how to manage the devices," he said.

Device Management uses a variety of existing mechanisms to package applications for distribution to the devices. Those include Marimbas existing application packager, Microsofts ActiveSync and Palms HotSync technology. The tool allows remote IT operators to install, uninstall, verify and repair applications and content from PCs to devices. It also provides templates that allow operators to package custom applications for deployment to end points.

"The idea of using (templates) is helpful in that it allows IT managers to more smoothly and on a more systematic basis manage devices on a larger scale," reacted Fred Broussard, senior analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

The software is designed to scale to support as many as 10,000 end points. It leverages Marimbas existing reporting capability, allowing users to generate canned or ad hoc reports. The tool also centralizes logging of problems that occur during the transmission of updates so that operators can determine which instances were successful. Canned reports tell operators "when the last update was, whether you have an 802.11b link, and gives the user profile, login information, preferences and network profile to see what the VPN configuration is," described Morain.

The optional Device Management module, in beta testing now, is due out in the second quarter.

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